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Saturday, April 19, 2014 | Last updated: 8:17pm

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Tucson's downtown still improving, already a unique hot spot for entertainment



Mom and pop businesses line the streets of downtown Tucson; with artistic characters and one-of-a-kind offerings, downtown presents Tucson residents with an experience that can’t be found anywhere else.

Although some parts of downtown are still suffering from years of neglect following the recession that started in 2007, recent investments are revitalizing businesses and infrastructure in the area. The Downtown Tucson Partnership estimates that around than $800 million has been invested over the past 3 years, and the impact is noticeable.

The construction of Plaza Centro, contemporary student housing designed to hold about 500 people, is set to be finished by August . A $4 million investment by a local developer has also revamped The Flats at Julian Drew to include more modern apartments with retail and fitness businesses. Another $3 million investment will revitalize the senior living center at Sentinel Plaza.

The public sector accounted for a larger chunk of that $320 million with a $75 million investment from Pima County to build its new Court Complex, which may hold future internship opportunities for UA students, along with a 1,200-space parking structure. Of course, there’s also the $200 million Tucson Modern Streetcar project and other investments like the $11 million for the Cushing Street Bridge and $2.3 million for the Ronstadt Transit Center that are aimed at creating a solid infrastructure to attract more private investors in coming years.

Growth is slow and tedious. But at least it’s progress, and it may mean potential jobs for graduating students. Last year, Unisource Energy hired more than 400 employees to staff its new nine-story, $60 million corporate headquarters.

It’s not as if downtown Tucson is all work and no play, though. Fourth Avenue is probably more fun if you’re 21, though that’s true of just about anywhere. However, with dozens of restaurants lining Fourth Avenue, the street fair every March and December and the small quirks like the oddly shaped bike racks, there’s something for everyone downtown. Lindy’s on 4th made Food Network’s “Meat and Potatoes” for its famous double cheeseburger served on grilled cheese sandwiches and mac-n-cheese on a burger. Hub Restaurant and Ice Creamery features ice cream flavors you would never think of trying, like cinnamon roll, bacon and even alcohol flavored ice cream, but pulls them off with perfection.

Best of all, Fourth Avenue isn’t packed full of chains like Tempe’s Mill Avenue. Sure, you can have a good time on both, but your good time in downtown Tucson is unique to Tucson. You won’t find the Hub, Lindy’s, Maynards Market or Elliott’s on Congress anywhere else, and if you leave Tucson after graduating, you’re almost sure to miss them. Downtown Tucson may not be New York or Los Angeles, but it is home.

— Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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